The health benefits of a Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil, fish and fresh veg are well documented.
But the latest trend is to eat like a Viking – and the World Health Organisation has suggested a Nordic-style diet could help ward off cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer’s.
Now it is recommending that governments worldwide encourage people to adopt Scandinavian – as well as Mediterranean – eating habits.
The diets are currently promoted by only 15 out of 53 European countries, not including the UK.
But a review by the WHO says both can help prevent heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and cancer, and also cut the risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.
A classic Nordic diet would consist of fish, seasonal fruit and vegetables, whole grain cereals and poultry. This is broadly similar to a Mediterranean one, but Scandinavians usually cook with rapeseed rather than olive oil.
Happily for drinkers, both the Nordic and Mediterranean lifestyles allow for a moderate amount of wine.
Joao Breda, of the WHO, said: ‘Expanding our understanding of how to promote these healthy dietary patterns is an urgent priority.’
However, Britain is not doing enough to sell the benefits of these diets, according to Jessica Renzella, of the University of Oxford, who helped draw up the WHO report.
She said: ‘The evidence is there and it shows that a Nordic and Mediterranean diet are good for you. This report was to see if countries were using that knowledge to promote them. We found that there are no national policies, programmes or interventions within the UK explicitly aimed at promoting these diets.
‘They are trendy, people like them, and we would urge governments to add these or other evidence-based healthy diets into policy.’
Previous research from Copenhagen University in Denmark found women who adopt a Nordic diet of fish, cabbage, rye bread, oatmeal and root vegetables were 45 per cent less likely to have a heart attack. There was a 25 per cent reduced risk in men.The WHO review is based on evidence of the diets’ benefits from a range of studies. It suggests that more fruit, vegetables, fish and whole grains be incorporated into school lunches, and that labelling be more explicit about their nutritional value.
Mads Frederik Fischer-Moller, of the Nordic Council of Ministers, said: ‘Healthier diets have also been found to be better from a climate and environmental perspective, meaning there can be great win-wins in tackling negative dietary patterns.’
Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at Public Health England, said: ‘The typical Mediterranean and Nordic diets are consistent with our Eatwell Guide, which was updated in 2015 to reflect the latest evidence.
‘Our One You and Change4Life campaigns help people make healthier choices, but these are only part of the wider solution to improve the nation’s diet.
‘We’re at the forefront of some of those solutions, including working with the food industry to make our food healthier – this is bigger than any one-off activity.’
Countries that promote the Nordic and Mediterranean diets include Ireland, Israel, Iceland, Norway and Sweden.
EASE ARTHRITIS ...WITH FISH OIL
ARTHRITIS sufferers can soothe their crippling pain by taking just 1g of fish oil a day, scientists said yesterday.
University of Surrey researchers examined 68 studies into the most effective ways to the reduce pain of osteoarthritis, the most common form of the condition, which affects eight million Britons.
They said exercise and a low- calorie diet rich in leafy vegetables such as kale and spinach also had benefits.
Osteoarthritis is caused as cartilage wears away, leading to bone rubbing on bone – with the knees, hips, hands and spine the most commonly affected areas.
Researchers found that a low dose of fish oil was enough to ease pain for osteoarthritis sufferers and improve their cardiovascular health. The oil’s essential fatty acids counter pain by reducing inflammation in the joints.
© Daily Mail